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The Observer

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The Observer was raised by wolves. Walked 20 miles in the snow each way to school, lived on leaves and berries scavenged in the dark forbidding forest in which we lived, etc. (OK, so what we really mean was that The Observer’s family was poor, headline-generating dysfunctional.)

So the Observer was vastly amused — and puzzled — by the frenzy generated on the Arkansas Times blog recently by an item about Hendrix College’s inclusion in the new edition of “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges.” What amused and puzzled us was the passionate nature of many of the comments, some of which were astonishingly vitriolic.

The Observer attended Hendrix College. We don’t at all recognize the elitist, wildly liberal, morally bankrupt, pansexual orgy-fest of a school that some of the blog commentators described — and we attended Hendrix in the ’70s. What we do remember is that when we got there, we felt for the first time in our life that we weren’t a freak because we really, really liked to read and we were smarter even than a lot of the boys.

The Observer remembers Kirk Smith, the Hendrix official who oversaw financial aid and who ensured our continued attendance by assuring our weeping self that somehow, some way, Hendrix would find the money to prevent us from having to drop out. He died several years ago, and we will forever regret not telling him how much he meant to us. We remember Dr. David Larson, history professor, now retired, who along with his wife, Marilyn, provided non-wolf role models for adulthood. We remember Dr. George Thompson (a true Burkean conservative) and Dr. Garrett McAinsh, a Scots-dry-wit history professor.

The Observer made friends there that remain friends to this day, friends we probably really would kill for (but they went to Hendrix, so they’re not very violent and, anyway, would think it rude to ask). It was the happiest freaking four years of our life, and if you want to get all personal about it, let’s just go ahead and take it outside, buddy, because though The Observer’s friends abjure violence, remember, The Observer has kept our own fangs sharpened. Don’t blame Hendrix, though. Blame the wolves.


The Observer’s officially part cyborg now, thanks to an operation earlier this summer to clean out and shore up our cervical spine, which apparently decided to walk off the job about five decades early. There’s a thin titanium plate covering the front of three of our vertebrae, held in place by three Tim-Burtonish-looking screws that go right into the middle of the bones. (No, it doesn’t hurt, but thanks for asking.)

So anyway, we’re planning this trip overseas in a few months, and because we don’t particularly like the idea of being thrown into a small windowless room by burly guards yelling Italian at us because they can’t figure out why we keep setting off the airport metal detector in Florence, we decided to do a little advance preparation. We found a website that translates phrases on demand, and asked it how to say “I have a metal plate in my neck” in Italian. “Ho una piastra del metallo nel mio collo.” (Everything sounds so ridiculously romantic in Italian. “I have dog poop on my shoe”: “Ho poop di cane sul mio scarpa.” Beautiful.)

We decided to give it a trial run, minus the language barrier, and headed down to the Pulaski County Courthouse one morning. There, to our surprise, the security guard there informed us it was our shoes, not our robot parts, that were causing the detector to squawk. Titanium, he said, doesn’t set off metal detectors.

Now this seemed to us like a fairly gargantuan hole in the fabric of our nation’s security. A metal that doesn’t trigger metal detectors? What’s to keep an evildoer from fashioning something sharp or, say, bullet-firing from titanium and having his way on any jumbo jet he chose?

Nature, apparently. We Googled the topic, and it turns out that while titanium guns do exist, they’re made from alloys, because pure titanium is too brittle to use on its own.

That makes us feel better about getting on that flight to Florence, but it doesn’t inspire so much confidence in the scaffolding propping up our neck. Somebody get us some chicken wire.

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